Not being located close to the person you are caring for can be challenging when you cannot visit regularly, and it's harder to respond to issues quickly. This article focuses on looking after someone from a distance. The team at Dementia Waikato have provided some practical suggestions for those people who are caring for a person who has dementia.
What is caring from a distance?
Caring from a distance is when you support and help someone from afar. It could be when the person with dementia is living alone, in a care facility or hospital, during times of COVID restrictions or living overseas. There are lots of ideas for how you can help support the person.
Supporting a person with dementia living at home
Make regular phone calls or send text messages to offer social connection, support, and reassurance.
- Check on the person’s welfare during these phone calls
- Check they have sufficient food in the house, are they remembering to take their medications and doing things like routinely securing the house at nights.
- Provide emotional support by phone, email, post letters/post cards, send ‘care parcels’, or video calls.
Encourage family/whanau and friends to also keep in regular contact with the person.
Other ways to help:
- Bill payments – assist with setting up on-line payments of regular bills
- Deliveries – arrange for the delivery of on-line food shopping and other essentials
- Medical prescriptions – arrange for on-line delivery of medical prescriptions (e.g. local pharmacy deliveries or Zoom online pharmacy)
- Keeping medical concerns noted– Contact GP on the person’s behalf if you have medical concerns
- Appointment reminders – phone calls to remind the person of appointments
- Rubbish duties – arranging with a supportive neighbour to put their rubbish out
- A ‘Life Tube’ – a small container which is stored in the persons fridge, containing their basic personal information and medical notes. Available from Age Concern
- A lock box – outside the person’s house containing a house key-to assist emergency services to access the home
- Automatic timers – such an electric blanket replaced with an electric blanket which has an automatic ‘off’ timer switch
- Organisation of medication – does the person need their medications in Blister Packs to assist them with remembering to take them correctly
- A list of important information – set up a written list of contact names/phone numbers in large print size and leave by the person’s landline for ease of reference. Also-write the Emergency Services phone number at the top of this list: 111
- Memory prompts – consider if the person would benefit from having clear signs (either in writing or clear pictures) to act as memory prompts. Examples include; remember to lock this door when leaving the house, the library is shut due to COVID rules and remember to take your pills.
Help the person to link into appropriate supports: eg: St John’s Caring Caller, delivery of Emergency Food Parcels, Age Concern Accredited Volunteer Visitor Service and Age Concern Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention Service.
Ensure you keep update medical information about the person: eg: copies of medical reports, current medications and dosage, COVID vaccination status, name and phone numbers of the person’s medical team: eg GP’s, Needs Assessor, Dementia Waikato Advisors. Information re previous medical issues.
Each time you visit, reassess the home situation. Are smoke alarms in working area, check fridge contents, check medications have been taken as prescribed. Does the person appear to be their usual self in terms of appearance, weight, behaviour, and general well-being. Check if their rubbish has been collected and if the house is in a reasonably clean state.
Caring for a person in a care centre, hospital, or hospice
- Find out the routines of the centre, so that you can contact the person at the most convenient times
- Ask staff re special events, eg: visiting choir-so that you can speak with them about it
- Set up times to regularly phone or video call. Ask centre staff if they are able to assist with setting up video sessions with family/friends
- Send letters, post cards, care parcels, photos of family members, etc.
Staying in regular contact
Staying in contact with people with dementia can be very reassuring for them, and something that they look forward to.
Having regular times for phone calls or visits can help reduce the risks associated with social isolation and anxiety and can help the person with orientation as it becomes part of their routine.
Caring for yourself
Taking care of yourself is important.
Caring from a distance can mean juggling many things-you may be working remotely and juggling children at home, and home-based school activities.
There is a lot of information and support available for you.
Be realistic about what you are able to provide. Don’t be afraid to ask other people for help.
Speak with your family and employer re what it involves supporting the person with dementia from a distance and see is there is anything they can do to assist you.
More information about Dementia Waikato
Dementia Waikato is a charitable trust providing free services to support individuals with a dementia diagnosis, their families and care partners.
To contact the Coromandel Peninsula Dementia Advisor and for more information about Dementia Waikato see the related link below.
Dementia UK: Caring from a distance
Queensland Health: Staying connected while being physically apart: wellbeing in the time of social distancing.